LEESBURG - Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.”
One man’s personal remembrances of the horrors of the Holocaust depict this horrific time in history, examining racial discrimination as a global problem with the capacity to result in unimaginable pain and suffering.
On Sept. 9-20, an exhibit chronicling this perspective will be on display at Lee County’s Oakland Library. University of Georgia professor Dr. Jerry Legge will formally introduce the exhibit to the community Sept. 12. The program is free and open to the public.
“Witness to the Holocaust: WWII Veteran William Alexander Scott III at Buchenwald” recalls the journey of Scott, a photographer in a segregated battalion of the U.S. Army during WWII. He witnessed the liberation of notorious concentration camp Buchenwald and his photographs give unique perspective to one of history’s most despairing times. The exhibit draws direct parallels between Jim Crow Laws and the Nuremberg Race Laws implemented in Germany and Nazi-controlled areas of Europe.
Curated by the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust in 1997, the exhibit is based on a permanent showing of the same name at the Anne Frank in the World: 1929-1945 display in Sandy Springs. The Commission has revised the exhibit to create a travelling version which is currently visiting selected libraries throughout the state.
Scott was the son of W.A. Scott II, the first African-American owner of a U.S. daily newspaper. While attending Morehouse College, he was unexpectedly drafted into the Army where he became a sergeant, photographer, camofleur and part-time historian in the Intelligence Section of the 183rd Engineer Combat Battalion.
In April 1945, Scott arrived in Eisenach, Germany, under the command of Gen. George S. Patton. Though a member of a then-segregated Army, any previous experience Scott had with racial discrimination paled in comparison to his first-hand accounts of the horrors witnessed at Buchenwald.
Scott’s experiences at Buchenwald combined with the racial discrimination he himself experienced in the U.S. led him to share his story.
“Because my father witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust and was experiencing the injustice of racial discrimination back at home, he was determined to do what he could to change things,” said his daughter, Alexis Scott. “One of the things he knew, based on his experiences as a soldier in World War II, is that there was a concerted effort to eliminate the Jews — a genocide, and that this was the extreme execution of hatred. He realized, in coming to combat it here, that you cannot fight hate with hate. Hate only begets more hate.”
After returning home, Scott completed his education and became circulation manager of the Atlanta Daily World. Throughout his life, he remained an active member of the Atlanta community and served on the committee to celebrate the first national holiday commemorating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Scott was also appointed to both the Georgia Commission of the Holocaust and the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.